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Trump Speaks Out on Abuse Claims; Interview with Charlie Dent; Congress Passes Budget Deal; North Korea Accuses Pence of "Nasty and Shameful Behavior"; Discovering the Outdoors with Adventure Tourism. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired February 10, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[10:59:54] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAAME BINEY, TEAM USA SPEEDSKATER: I love having people smile and laugh because if you're smiling and laughing then that means you're happy and being happy especially in this world with everything that's going on, I think it's like the best present you can ever give to anyone every single day.


COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Maame is competing in the 1,500 meter and just qualified for the 500 meter. A bit a go, Vice President Mike Pence was there to see it.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good for her. Good luck to her, certainly.

Hey Coy -- thank you so much.


PAUL: Enjoy it there. He's watching some history.

BLACKWELL: Enjoying it too.

PAUL: Thank you so much for spending some time with us. We always appreciate you.

BLACKWELL: There is much more ahead in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM. We turn it over now to our colleague -- Fredricka Whitfield.


BLACKWELL: Good morning.

WHITFIELD: Winter Olympic games always exciting. You know, never really predictable. Anything can happen and that's, you know, what makes it so enticing to watch -- right.

BLACKWELL: And there's a lot on the sidelines this year.

WHITFIELD: Yes. A lot on the sidelines, too.

All right, thanks so much. You all have a great rest of your morning. BLACKWELL: You, too.

PAUL: You, too.

WHITFIELD: It's the 11:00 Eastern hour. Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

NEWSROOM starts right now.

We begin with chaos at the White House and the President today seemingly defending administration officials accused of domestic violence tweeting this just moments ago. "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?"

The President's tweet today coming on the heels of yet another White House official resigning over domestic abuse allegations. David Sorensen this time, a member of Trump's speech writing team is out after his ex-wife alleged that he snuff cigarettes out on her body and drove a car over her foot according to the "Washington Post" reporting.

Sorensen denies the accusations and says he was -- he was the victim, rather, during the marriage.

This is on top of White House staff secretary Rob Porter's resignation this week and criticism of the President's response to his departure saying nothing about Porter's accusers or anything about domestic abuse.

Here's the President yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an obviously tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. But, it was very sad when we heard about it and certainly he's also very sad now.

He also as you probably know, he says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So, you'll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well.


WHITFIELD: That was the President talking about Rob Porter and his departure.

Let's get straight to CNN's Abby Philip, live from the White House. So Abby -- the response coming from the President yesterday, raising a lot of eyebrows and now the tweets today.

ABBY PHILIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right -- Fred.

It really answers the burning question I think a lot of people have had which is what exactly does President Trump think about these allegations against some of his top aides. And he's made it very clear that he thinks that people who are being accused should not automatically be put out, that they should be given the benefit of the doubt.

This comes on the heels of Rob Porter being accused of domestic violence by two of his ex-wives, photographs of those wives or one of those wives emerging including one with a black eye.

The White House has also scrambled in the last couple of days to explain why it took so long for them to dismiss Porter. And the explanation had been that they didn't fully know the accusations and that as soon they did, he was terminated.

Now, the President seems to take a different approach to that. He has been talking a lot about the rights of the accused and nothing about the accusers. He has said not a word about either of the two ex-wives who have accused Rob Porter or about David Sorensen's ex-wife.

And that's pretty consistent with how President Trump has dealt with accusations like this in the past including those against him by several women who emerged during the presidential campaign. The White House to this day still insists that those women are lying.

And then when Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama was accused of sexual abuse against minors the President repeatedly insisted that Moore denied the allegations.

So all of this raising a lot of questions about what is the White House's approach to these issues especially at such a fraught time with the Me Too Movement swirling around, the President keeps coming back to this issue of men being wrongly accused in an environment and not saying anything at all, Fred, about the women and about what they might have endured.

[11:05:01] WHITFIELD: All right. Abby Philip -- thank you so much from the White House.

Let's talk more about this and get the Republican perspective on all these major developments at the White House -- a Republican, I should say. Joining me right now is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

Congressman -- thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

All right. So your reaction to what the President has to say this morning in reference to due process and that people's lives are being ruined by mere allegations, he says. Some are true, some are false; some are old, some are new.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Fredricka, I think the bigger issue is the failure of vetting here. We saw this before with Michael Flynn when there were red flags raised during the vetting process. That was ignored.

WHITFIELD: But before the vetting, the President now has responded. Because yesterday --

DENT: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- he made no mention of the accusers; instead he led praise to Mr. Porter. And then today now again, he is showing no sympathy or empathy to those who have allegedly been victimized here, but again, now showing his support for those who have been accused. Your response to how he has worded his statements.

DENT: Well first, I would say this. There has to be zero tolerance towards that type domestic violence that's being discussed in these two situations. That's very clear. And of course, we should be very sympathetic and empathetic to the victims, to the women who have been -- who have been violated here, a subject of violence.

That said, I think it's important for the President to acknowledge the victims. Now these two individuals may have done good work in the White House --

WHITFIELD: And he hasn't. So how concerning is it to you that he still hasn't?

DENT: Yes. Well, it is of concern. And again, I think -- but it does speak to the larger question though, how do people get into these jobs in the first place if it's known that they have these types of issues on their record. Why would they be hired in the first place -- I think is really the big question.

And sure the President --

WHITFIELD: And then --

DENT: -- needs to respond --

WHITFIELD: Sure and then --

DENT: -- more forcefully and better than he has.

WHITFIELD: -- and then in addition -- sorry. And then in addition to that, after the White House or a number, layers of people do know about these accusations waiting months before there is any kind of activity on a response or accepting of a resignation. I mean what does that say to you about this kind of pattern of behavior or the handling of such cases?

DENT: Well, again it's just simply disappointing that these types of accusations had not been brought up sooner in this process. And when it was discovered -- maybe it wasn't discovered at the time of their hiring. But when it was discovered, it should have been dealt with, you know, quickly and -- and directly.

WHITFIELD: You think they should have been removed right away, such as a Rob Porter once the FBI -- (CROSSTALK)

DENT: If they had known in advance of his hiring I would not have hired him in the first place. In the event that they discovered it after the fact I would think you have to remove the person based on the serious of these accusations.

And it wasn't just one, it sounded like two or three, as I understand, in the case of Mr. Porter.

WHITFIELD: Ok. So if we are to add at least two people most recently where the discovery is made after their hiring, what are your concerns about how the White House has handled the allowances of these individuals to continue to work even after these accusations have been brought to their attention? I'm talking about Rob Porter and David Sorensen.

DENT: Well, it sounds like they've been removed and that's -- that's a good thing. But the initial reaction clearly was substandard and needed to be dealt with more forcefully and more directly.

Again, it speaks to the old issue of vetting and how -- again, I saw this during the Michael Flynn case, when there were red flags raised at the time. And those red flags were either ignored or just seen by those who should have seen them.

So I think really that is the bigger question. They have to do a much stronger job of vetting people. And it's been a challenge in this administration to hire people, I've noticed.

Look, there are a lot of vacancies throughout the various departments. Particularly say in the Department of State where, you know, many of the top ranking Republican national security figures were disqualified because of statements they made during the campaign about then- candidate Trump.


DENT: And so then they're reaching down lower for people who may not frankly be as well-vetted or well-qualified.

WHITFIELD: So there -- so it does appear that there are a series of concerns, whether it be the vetting that you are speaking of, perhaps even the fact that there have not been full security clearances reportedly of a number of people, whether it be including Rob Porter. Even now reportedly Jared Kushner on the job for a long period of time before the security clearances have been completed.

[11:10:02] And then there are reports that say President Trump is very upset at how the chief of staff John Kelly handled the Rob Porter case as a whole. But then, of course, when we heard from the President for the first time yesterday he, you know, lodged real praise on Porter.

Are you concerned about the way the chief of staff has handled things, reportedly he told staffers, you know, that he took action within 40 minutes but then there are discrepancies about that. DENT: Well, it seems to me that the -- that the Porter situation was

clearly mishandled within the White House. Now having said that --

WHITFIELD: Should John Kelly be reprimanded with the job for that?


DENT: Well, let me say this, that's up to the President. But John Kelly, when he did come in to the White House he came in at a very difficult time. And I will give him credit for restoring some discipline and order to the management of the White House.

I'm not saying he managed the President but he certainly has brought some order and stability to the operation of the White House which is a good thing given where it was when he came in where we were going through constant chaos and dysfunction on a regular basis, leaks that were occurring it seems like on an hourly basis.

So he did restore that level of order and I think he should be credited for that. Again, I think he and the White House generally mishandled this whole domestic violence situation of these two individuals.

WHITFIELD: And I know you and many people want to talk about the budget deal that was approved this week but of course upstaging much of that are these allegations of domestic abuse, the handling from the White House of all of this and now the two resignations.

But I do want to ask you about this two-year budget deal this week. Republican Senator Rand Paul slowed up the process and was extremely critical of Republicans saying, you know, this is the party of conservatism with money and here this budget deal means spending a lot.

You responded by telling Politico, "When Rand Paul pulls a stunt like this it is easy to understand why it's difficult to be Rand Paul's next door neighbor." So you're talking about that, you know, recent assault taking place on the property involving Rand Paul. What did you mean by that? And why was that appropriate?

DENT: Well, that was a facetious comment said in jest. The serious point was this -- you know, it was absurd to gratuitously, recklessly and unnecessarily shut down the government for five hours. That was inappropriate in my view.

This is serious business, you know. A number of people didn't show up for work the next morning. It cost the government a lot of money. It didn't need to happen. He simply could have made his point.

I respect -- I certainly respect and like Senator Paul. But that was -- you know, he was grandstanding. He could have made his point in a shorter amount of time. And not disrupted the function and order of government.

WHITFIELD: But you do agree with his point? Are you saying that you agree with his point because he was speaking to the hypocrisy of this kind of spending when for so long Republicans have not been on board with the kind of budget plan that was the proponent of this kind of spending?

DENT: Well, let me say this -- Fredricka. We needed a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement. We needed to bring stability and certainty to the federal budget process over two years. There is no question about that.

I've been calling for this for the last eight, nine months. We needed to do this.

Now, is this agreement larger than I would have liked? Yes. But at the same time the administration certainly and General -- Secretary Mattis was very clear, you know, he needed $700 billion in defense spending and he needed it now. And the fact that defense spending tries (ph) to the extent that it did also put pressure on raising nondomestic spending given the dynamics of the Senate.

So to that extent, we needed this agreement. We do have predictability, certainty over the next couple of years. So that is a good thing for the country. And we will in short order then pass appropriations bills over the next few weeks so that we can go on with our business and do other things.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it right there. Congressman Charlie Dent -- thanks so much for tackling a lot on the table this morning.

DENT: Thank you -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead a historic picture -- North Korea and South Korea united under one flag at the Olympics ceremonies. And an invitation which would mean the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than a decade as Kim Jong-Un extends an offer to the South Korean president for a visit.

Plus Vice President Mike Pence under attack for what North Korea calls nasty and shameful behavior while at the winter games.


WHITFIELD: A historic move being made by North Korea at the Winter Olympics. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has invited the South Korean president for a visit. He made the offer through his sister, Kim Yo-Jong who is attending the games. She's the one who sat just a few feet away from Vice President Mike Pence at the opening ceremonies.

Pence is now coming under attack from North Korean leadership when they published an editorial accusing Pence of quote, "nasty and shameful behavior" while at the Olympics. And it also went on to say "Pence's blind act and abusive language is a disgusting sight, reminding one of Trump's craziness." Among other things, the Vice President met with North Korean defectors while he was in South Korea.

I want to bring in our Will Ripley, live from Pyeongchang. So Will -- there has been discussion about whether North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea.

[11:20:02] The Vice President addressed that on Air Force Two on his way back to Washington. To what extent?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did. The Vice President Pence spoke with reporters, and he said that he understood the discussions with President Moon Jae-in. And President Moon Jae-in has expressed at least a desire to engage with the North Koreans. This is something that is not stranger to the Americans.

But Vice President Pence made clear he thinks that the U.S.-South Korea alliance remains strong. He thinks that South Korea is still on board with the U.S. policy of maximum pressure on the North Korean regime led by Kim Jong-Un which includes diplomatic isolation and sanctions. He said there's on no daylight, in his words, between the two countries in terms of their policies.

But obviously, there are some real very differing viewpoints here in South Korea about the Vice President. There were protesters here in Pyeongchang holding South Korean and America flags saying that North Korea has essentially hijacked the Olympics by sending Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of Kim Jong-Un, stealing the spotlight away from the so- called Peace Olympics.

But then there are also people who feel that the Vice President was not acting in the spirit of the Olympics, as North Korea state media accused him. They didn't think it was in good taste to meet with defectors, to say such strong defamatory language about the North Korean regime at a time that President Moon appeared to be making some, at least limited progress diplomatically.

And so, the divisions, just like there are in many aspects of politics, are certainly present -- clear and present here -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Will Ripley -- thank you so much, in South Korea. Appreciate it.

All right. Coming up, Israeli fighter pilots forced to bail out of their jet after taking fire in the skies over Syria. This as Israel launches a large-scale attack on Iranian targets in Syria. We'll take you there live, next.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

The Israeli military says one of its fighter jets has crashed after coming under massive anti-aircraft fire from Syrian forces. The pilots were forced to bail out of the jet. The escape actually caught on camera. One pilot seriously injured.

The Israelis say their planes had been targeting an area in Syria where an Iranian drone had entered Israeli air space. That drone was shot down.

CNN's Ian Lee is in Golan Heights. Ian -- Israel has also launched a wave of strikes inside Syria. What is going on there?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fredricka -- this is probably the most dangerous escalation of tensions the Golan Heights has seen in decades. Let me just take you from the very beginning.

In the early morning hours, Israeli military officials say an Iranian drone infiltrated Israeli air space. An attack helicopter shot it down.

In retaliation, eight Israeli fighter jets went after that command and control center near Palmyra in Syria where they say Iranian forces were controlling that drone. They attacked that site and during that mission they did, as you said, come under heavy anti-aircraft fire from the Syrian regime.

One of those planes from what we're hearing was most likely hit, the cause of that crash. The pilots were able to eject. One of them seriously injured; the other lightly injured.

In retaliation for that, Israel launched another wave of air strikes going after 12 different targets -- eight of them Syrian targets, four of them Iranian. And this also included anti-aircraft batteries. All those planes were able to make it back to their base safely.

Iranian officials have denied that their drones were targeted. They called this accusation ridiculous. The Syrians also said this is a dangerous aggression by the Israelis.

The Israelis though, say that they are protecting their sovereignty. They say right now though the ball is in the Syrians court, that they want to -- the Israelis want to de-escalate this situation.

But just to tell you how significant this is, we asked Israeli military officials, when was the last time an Israeli jet was shot down. They couldn't give us an immediate answer. They said most likely in 1982 when Israel was at war in Lebanon.

But it just shows you for how long Israel has enjoyed air supremacy. Today that was challenged.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ian Lee -- thanks so much.

Still so much more straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM. But first most people think of a vacation as a chance to chill out. But if you're looking for something more, adventure tourism just might be for you.


ALEX SOTO, DISCOVER OUTDOORS GUIDE: The priority is to get people outside to really connect to themselves and nature.

My name is Alex Soto and I'm with Discovery Outdoors.

Discovery Outdoors has a lot of international tourists. We do Everest base camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro. We do the Canadian Rockies.

All right, guys. Let's do this.

We are currently on Storm King Mountain in Newburgh, New York. We're going to be hiking four miles. Right now the weather should be like low 20s. It's a little breezy but once we start moving, we're going to start warming up.

At this point in time, we've been on the hike for about 45 minutes or so. I feel extremely part of the hikers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I absolutely hate hikes. Knowing that I had faced this huge fear and then got to see all of this beauty around was definitely a plus.

[11:30:02] SOTO: Our next stop is going to be at Newburgh Brewery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We actually got to see the entire brewing process which is pretty exciting. When I go back home to have a beer and I'll actually get to know exactly how exactly it was made.



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Another White House staffer is out amid a swirl of domestic violence allegations surrounding the west wing. Speech Writer David Sorensen resigning after "The Washington Post" interviewed his ex-wife. She said that Sorensen threw her against a wall and put out a cigarette on her hand.

All of this as the White House is under fire for its handling of allegations against Staff Secretary Rob Porter. At issue, who knew about Porter's domestic violence accusations from two ex-wives and when did they know it?

[11:40:06] President Trump is now weighing in on the scandal. Tweeting a just a short time ago, quote, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true, some are false. Some are old and some are new. There's no recovery for someone falsely accused -- life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?"

CNN's Jim Acosta has more on what this scandal says about this administration.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump finally broke his silence about the resignation of his former staff secretary, Rob Porter, but it was hardly a "me too" moment.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I found out about it recently and I was surprised by it. We certainly wish him well. It's obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House and we hope he has a wonderful career and hopefully, he will have great career ahead of him. But, it was very sad when we heard about it. ACOSTA: The president said nothing about the women who say Porter abused them, but he made a point to highlight Porter's denials.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: He says he's innocent. I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So, you'll have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House.

ACOSTA: That sounded eerily similar to the president's comments about failed GOP Senate candidate, Roy Moore, who faced accusations of sexual abuse.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: He totally denies it. He said it didn't happen and you know, you have to listen to him also.

ACOSTA: The White House is still engaged in damage control after the Porter scandal broke. Chief of Staff John Kelly who first released a statement heaping praise on Porter, eventually issued a memo that adopted a different tone to White House aides, writing, "While we are all processing the shocking and troubling allegations made against a former White House staffer, I want you to know that we all take matters of domestic violence seriously.

Domestic violence is abhorrent and has no place in our society." Kelly also held a meeting about Porter with staffers where he insisted, I got his resignation." But that's not in line with the facts.

And sources tell CNN, Kelly has known about the allegations facing Porter for months. Kelly was still backing Porter when the White House first commented publicly on the matter.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you that Rob has been effective in his role as staff secretary and the president and the chief of staff have had full confidence and trust of his abilities and his performance.

ACOSTA: Sources tell CNN Porter first informed the White House Counsel Don McGahn about his past a year ago. That was when Porter's ex-wives began speaking to the FBI. By the spring of last year, the FBI provided a preliminary report to White House security officials.

Then in the fall, Porter was interviewed by the FBI. It was in November that McGahn, Kelly, and another deputy, Joe Hagan, were made aware of Porter's domestic issues. In recent weeks, CNN has learned one of Porter's ex-girlfriends has told McGahn she had concerns about Porter's relationship with communications director, Hope Hicks. One of Porter's ex-wives told her story to Anderson Cooper.

JENNIE WILLOUGHBY, ROB PORTER'S EX-WIFE: The reality is, he's not a monster. He is an intelligent, kind, chivalrous, caring, professional man, and he's deeply troubled and angry and violent. I don't think those things are mutually exclusive.

ACOSTA: Democrats are seizing on the Porter saga to argue the president and the team just don't get it. BIDEN: Before I walked on stage, a statement from the president saying, he wishes him luck, he has so much talent. That's like saying that ax murderer out there he's a great painter. No, think -- translate this into everyday terms. Is there any other crime and it is a crime, where there would be an explanation the reason we shouldn't pay attention to the transgression is because they're good at something?


WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Jim Acosta for that.

Joining me right now, CNN Politics senior writer, Juana Summers, staff writer for "The Atlantic," David Graham, and CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes. Good to see you all.

All right. Juana, you first, the president tweeting today defending those accused of domestic abuse. You know, saying it may have been some time ago. They too are allowed and should get due process. Their lives are ruined because or mere allegations is how he put it.

Why does this president feel that this is the best way in which to handle this situation now with a second person resigning over domestic violence allegations at home?

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: Yes, Fredricka, what we're seeing here is a pattern from this White House. In both of these cases with both of these men, the White House didn't say anything until after press reports came out illuminating these allegations by their former wives.

[11:40:06] This is something that we have seen from this White House time and time again when the president has backed Roy Moore and others, saying, you know, nothing to see here. There are two sides to every story.

It gets really important to note too that we saw aside from the memo that Jim Acosta reported from John Kelly this White House hasn't said anything about the women who have alleged that these men who were under employee until they resigned very recently have alleged, which is horrible, horrific behavior.

So, still a lot of silence there. I think that the White House is going to continue to be press about just how much they knew, when they knew it, and why they choose not to act, and why this didn't rise to the level of dismissing these men rather than allowing them to resign.

WHITFIELD: And I wonder, Juana, if the president did indirectly just say something about the accusers by saying, calling attention to, you know, the allegations, mere allegations, you know, some true, some not. I mean, is he not already indirectly saying something about the credibility of these women who have come forward?

SUMMERS: What appeared to me based on the reading of the president's tweet and what he said in that oval office that he's made a determination that these men who have been accused of assaulting both verbally and physically their former wives they deserve their day in court.

There are two sides to every story. The claims that these women have made about this behavior that they are not valid to this White House. I think that that is sending a lot of chills to a lot of people, who have been in similar situations that their stories even when they come forward they don't matter. They're not to be believed.

WHITFIELD: And then David, there's the sequence of events, the way in which this discovery, publicizing all of this has been carried out. Our sources saying that Kelly has known about the allegations for weeks, but continued to defend Porter right up until his resignation, did Kelly not conduct his own investigation or is it that Kelly liked Porter so much that he didn't want to say anything that would jeopardize his job, which is it?

DAVID GRAHAM, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": You know, I think part of it is Kelly is concerned that so much of the White House has been broiled by staffing problems and having people who couldn't do jobs that he saw in Rob Porter somebody who maybe was flawed but could do the job.

And he decided that was a bargain that worth making. You know, you've got Kelly saying on the one hand, the White House takes domestic violence seriously. The vice president is saying in South Korea there's no zero tolerance.

But clearly, that isn't case based on the fact that the White House knew about these allegations and of course, you have the president's statements as Juana said.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And that zero tolerance, it's almost like a revision or a cleaning up after the first statement, which was a little bit, you know, more glowing about Porter. And that perhaps the second comments coming from Kelly is to try and clear the air or perhaps preserve his own job, what do you think, David?

GRAHAM: I mean, I think there's a realization it's politically toxic to be defending someone who has been accuse of domestic violence in this way, and you know, you see them concerned about that. At the same time, you have White House staffers telling the "Washington Post" Th they were concerned that Kelly was passing along a version of events that was blatantly untrue.

So, people inside the White House are clearly upset about this revising of what really happened and about the White House's line about taking it seriously when they don't really adhere to.

WHITFIELD: And then, still unclear whether Kelly has offered his resignation, whether he's thinking about it, it's been reported both ways. So, here's what the deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, had to say about the whole issue of background checks, which has been scrutinized especially after learning that Porter did not have clearance and has been working there for many months. Listen.


RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We should not short circuit an investigation just because allegations are made unless they could compromise national security or interfere with operations at the White House. The truth must be determined and that was what was going with Rob Porter. His background investigation was ongoing. He was operating on an interim security clearance. His clearance was never denied, and he resigned.


WHITFIELD: All right, so, Tom, help us understand that. So, his security clearance was ongoing, he had interim security clearance, that his security clearance had not been denied, how unusual is it many, many months, not a matter of weeks, which can be the case for sometimes people coming on to a White House job it takes them a few weeks before they have security clearance but a year?

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It could be. I think that, Fredricka, you know, a lot of these cases there are thousands of security investigations being conducted by the FBI in the immediate aftermath of a new administration taking office.

So, you have not just people working in the White House, in senior positions throughout the government, United States attorneys, judges being nominated, a wide array, hundreds of agents that get assigned these cases to try to expedite getting this through the system, so the government couldn't go on.

There are many interim clearances that are granted pending the final resolution, but the FBI does not issue this clearance. They conduct the investigation, provides the result to the White House security staff, they make the determination of whether or not a person gets an interim clearance or is denied or actually recommended to go on to a permanent clearance.

WHITFIELD: So, that the FBI gave this material very early on. You're painting the picture that's the White House that makes the determination, is it unusual, at great risk, vulnerable to take that long to make a decision based on information that has already provided to them?

FUENTES: It could. It depends on what the information is that's come up in this security check. Now, some of the references that the reason there are still many pending security clearances not being granted is that there are some shady thing that has come up with each one of those. That's not necessarily true

But, in cases where there is, the continued investigation is going to go in, but again, the FBI makes the results of the investigation known to the entity requesting it, in this case the White House Security Office and it's up to that White House office to make the final determination and how quickly they make it or whether they request more investigations. So, that's the issue here that it's not a process that the FBI actually has full control over. WHITFIELD: OK, so the president now defending these two White House staffers who have now resigned over this domestic abuse allegations, Rob Porter and David Sorensen. So, Juana, you know, you brought it up earlier. You talked about sort of a pattern, whether it was Roy Moore allegations and the president, you know, really questioning the veracity of those accusations and the credibility of the accusers.

There was Corey Lewandowski, who was accused of assaulting a reporter. The president also defended Bill O'Reilly when he was accused of harassment. I mean, this pattern of defending people who have been facing allegations of sexual misconduct, of domestic abuse.

I mean, what is the message that this White House or this president is sending overall as it pertains to the seriousness of these alleged crimes?

SUMMERS: I think the message that the White House is sending, these crimes are not serious. You have not heard the president address the women once. You have not heard this White House absent Mike Pence, the vice president --

WHITFIELD: Is there a feeling he can't because of the accusations that have been lodged against him. Whether it be the "Access Hollywood" tape where he admits to touching women and grabbing women inappropriately or the allegations from a handful of other women who have said he has acted inappropriately.

Is it that the president is weighing that and feels that he can't say anything critical because it will open up more questions about his own behavior and alleged behavior, admitted behavior and alleged behavior?

SUMMERS: Look, Fredricka, I can't tell you what the president is thinking, but I think that there has been a cloud around sexual misconduct that has hung over this White House from day one throughout the campaign.

When you have more than a dozen women who have alleged that the president either behaved inappropriately, said inappropriate things, touched them inappropriately, you have the "Access Hollywood" tape as you just noted.

I think it creates potentially awkward position if the president were to come out and say, you know, we need to take these women seriously. I think the question that would be raised for a lot of people is if we take these women seriously who have accused David Sorensen and Rob Porter, why shouldn't we have taken seriously the more than a dozen women who alleged that the president did various things.

WHITFIELD: And so, David, do you see this is a precursor to another shake up in the White House. I say another because you have two resignations this week, but now you've got John Kelly, you know, who may have known a lot more than we are being led to, you know, believe Don McGahn, counsel for the White House, perhaps knowing a lot more than the White House is willing to admit. Do you see another potential shake-up in those ranks because of all of this? GRAHAM: Keep in mind, the president was quick to embrace allegations against Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken. You know, the White House seems to be really in a state of permanent shake-up. John Kelly was on the job about six months. That's about the same time Reince Priebus have stayed on the job. It's clearly a turbulent job. Lot of pressure. You have the Mueller investigation. We'll continue to see turnover in top positions, yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Juana Summers, David Graham, Tom Fuentes, good to see you all. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: A bizarre and disturbing discovery in Toronto, police find the remains of six people in large flower planters at a home. The suspect, a local landscaper, who police believe is a serial killer. CNN's Polo Sandoval has the story.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This weekend, Toronto police are digging for answers at a home once landscaped by a suspected serial killer. It was here that investigators say Bruce McCarter used large planters to store his murdered victim, all of them men.

Among them, Andrew Kinsmen, missing since June. Investigators confirmed Kinsmen was among six set of remains found in planters this week. The rest are still unidentified. Though police won't elaborate, they say homicide detectives had sufficient evidence to charge McArthur with the murders of Kinsmen and four other missing men.

SGT. HANK IDSINGA, TORONTO POLICE DEPARTMENT: There's an extensive digital investigation going on. We're going through the computers, through cell phones, going through online applications.

SANDOVAL: There could be more victims yet to be discovered. Additional potential crime scenes have been identified and the soil at the primary location is slowly thawing, allowing forensic teams a chance to dig. As one retired Toronto homicide detective puts it, the work is just getting started for investigators.

DAVID PERRY, FORMER HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: Once they got evidence that, you know, clearly, he was responsible for at least number of the murders, that served the beginning of the investigation and now you have a case that involves at least 30 potential crime scenes that involves missing persons cases that could go back decades.

SANDOVAL: It's an unprecedented case for Toronto, says David Perry, one that's left a community and a city shaken to its core.

PERRY: There's a community that's been harmed significantly by what's happened. It's happens to be the gay community in particular. We all need to throw our support behind that entire community, behind the entire city this has impacted.


SANDOVAL: That lingering question, what did these alleged victims all have in common. Well, police in Toronto saying that McArthur essentially had some sort of relationship with these men and in some cases, that was sexual in nature, Fred.

So, investigators are now, as you just heard, going through the digital footprints, looking into some of these dating apps as well, hoping to find some clues. Another thing they're doing today, going back to that gruesome scene, digging for answers, and potentially more human remains -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: My gosh, all right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. It all starts after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Turmoil in the west wing, President Trump seemingly defending administration officials accused of domestic violence, tweeting, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true, some are false, some are old, some are new.